The term “Azhwar“ refers to the saintly souls who had immersed themselves in the exclusive devotion to Lord Sriman Narayana in unconditional surrender. The advanced saints, were the supreme devotees of Lord propagating Sri Vaishnavism among the masses through their poetical compositions glorified as Divya Prabhandams highlighting the beautiful effulgent form, auspicious attributes and divine deeds of the Supreme Lord in His various incarnations based on their personal mystic experiences.
They lived as human beings and burst out bhakti laden great works for the sake of humanity. The direct result of the Lord’s divine grace on Azhwars made their outpourings special and therefore called ‘ Divyam’. It is because of this that the works of Azhwars are called ‘ Divya Prabandham’ and are 4000 poems (pAsurams).
The Divya Prabhandams of the Azhwars are, therefore, held in as great veneration and reverence as the Vedas in Sanskrit. All the Azhwars held the view that Lord Sriman Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and one’s only goal of life was to attain Him. And, the path that each one of these Azhwars advocated was chanting the Divine Name of the Lord! which is the easiest path to attain the lotus feet of Lord.
Of the twelve Azhwars , the first three — Poigai Azhwar, Bhoodhatazhwar and Pey Azhwar were believed to be of mystic birth dating back to Dwaapara Era. The fourth, Thirumazhisai Azhwar was said to have been brought up by a couple who had the good luck to have his darshan in a forest . Kulashekara Azhwar was a Chera king. Periazhwar, Thondaradippodi Azhwar and Madhurakavi Azhwar were born into Brahmin families. Nammazhwar was born in a farmer’s home and Thiruppannazhwar belonged to the Pana community. The only female among them was Godha (Andal) well known for “Thiruppaavai” even to a common man and celebrated as an incarnation of Mother Earth (Bhoodevi). Thirumangai Azhwar, the youngest of the Azhwars was a chieftain of a Chola king.
The first three AzhvArs – Poigai AzvhAr, Bhudhath AzvhAr and Pey Azhvar were “ayOnijAs” – “ones who were not born from a womb”.
They appeared on water-flowers at three different water sources. Poigai AzhvAr manifested on a lotus flower at Kancheepuram Lord YatthOkthakAri perumaL temple tank on the ” sravanam” star during the month of “aippasi” (November ) .
The second Azhwar was Bhudhath AzhvAr who appeared on a nIlOthphala (kurukkaththi flower in tamil) near the seaside at thiru-k-kadal-mallai (present day Mahabalipuram) on the day subsequent to Poigai Azhvar (month of Aippasi, Avittam star ).
The third Azhwar “Pey Azhvar” appeared on a sengazhuneer flower in a well in thiru-mayilai (present day Mylapore, the temple of Lord Adikesava perumal on the day after Bhudath Azhvar appeared (aippasi month, sathayam star).
All the three Azhwars were blessed by the Lord with supreme knowledge, and as a result, they lived a life focused on divinity, worshipping the Supreme Lord at different temples, and living a life of ascetics.
To them the entire cosmos , all sentient and the insentient entities in it were alive and vibrating with the underlying divinity of Lord represented by HIS body and HE being the inner controller of the soul .
Azhwars point out very clearly in their outpourings the most important attribute of Lord is HIS immense compassion represented by HIS divine consort Sri: the divine mother forever residing in HIS heart and most easily accessible and who helps in the ultimate redemption of the embodied souls .
Since the appearance of such great souls is invariably tied to a reason of divine intent, the three Azhvars had to meet to fulfill the purpose of their appearance, to wit, give the world the esoteric truths in a manner accessible to common man .
The stage was set at Thirukovilur and the divine plan was already about to reveal . And Lord Sriman Narayana achieved this by making the Azhvars meet and become the harbingers in the effort towards the composition of the holy Dravida Vedas. The Lord arranged a divine plan and made each of them go to the town Thirukovilur which is located 75 kms from Cuddalore and about 200 kms from Chennai.
The rain clouds had overcast the sky and cover of darkness spread all around in the holy town of Thirukovalur . The torrential rain began pouring generously . It was as if the sky will tear open to give its opulence .
Proceeding the temple streets , Poigai Azhwar found out a small front passage ( dehali or rayzhi , thinnai in tamil ) in front of Mrikanda Ashrams hut ( the present Thirukovalur temple sanctum sanctorum ) which was fit for one person to lie down. Thanking Lord for his mercy , Poigai Azhwar moved in and occupied the space to lie down . Meanwhile , Bhoodath Azhwar coincidently arrived there looking for a shelter.
Poigai Azhvar welcomed him and said , Holy Sire ! Please come !! “we have enough space for one to be supine, two to sit ,… please come in”. Both the Azhwars were now seated , and were indulging in bhagavad guna anubhavam (recounting the innumerable auspicious qualities of the Lord) . Meanwhile pEy Azhvar also came at the same time to the same Ashrama. The two Azhvars already present in that little room said, Swamin !! “in this place, one can lie down, two can sit, and three can stand …. please come in”. PEy AzvhAr joined them, and the three Azhvars continued their joy filled discussion of the Lord’s auspicious qualities and divyaanubhutee which was one of the most auspicious moment to be remembered in the history of Thirukovalur. Lord pleased with the divine outcome now decided to be amongst HIS favourite devotees .
The darkness became denser and inside the small room they were not able to see each other. In the thunders and lightning that flashed across, the trio could see a fourth person exquisitely charming entering the room and they felt as if they were overpowered with a sublime, divine feeling.
The trio could immediately realize that the fourth person was none other than Lord Sriman Narayana Himself huddling among them. Poigai Azhwar , wishing to witness the charming divine effulgence of the Supreme Lord again and again, instantly lit a spiritual lamp to the Lord of the lords and the outpourings
vaiyam thagaliyA, vArkadlE neyyAga
sudarAzhiyAn adikkE soottinEn son mAlai
Idar neenghugavE enRu
which means “using the earth as the physical lamp structure, the sea of ether as the ghee for the flame, and the lit flame being verily the Sun himself!.”
thus the first Azhwar composed hundred verses glorifying the Lordships …. now glorified as “Mudhal thiruvandhAdhi (first poem of the type andhAdi, meaning the last word becomes the progenitor of the thought for the following verse) which is among the Naalayiram Divya Prabhandam …………….
Bhudaththu Azhvar, in turn offered a lamp using his yogic powers too, yet in a little different fashion
– “anbE thagaliyA, ArvamE neyyAga
inburugu sindhai idu thiriyA
naNpurugi GnAna chudar viLakku EtrinEn
Gnana thamizh purindha nAn
using his immense love for the Lord as the lamp structure, and his longing for union with the Lord as the energy engendering the flame. He composed a beautiful set of 100 divine verses known as “iraNdaam thiruvandhAdhi” (second poem of the type andhAdhi)….
The two sacred lamps of spiritual love, lit by Poigai Azhvar and Bhudhath Azhvar, allowed all the three Azvhars to experience the Lord in opulence proximity. That ambrosia filled experience inspired the third , Pey AzhvAr to glorify the Supreme Lord instantaneously …
“thiru-k-kaNdEn, pon mEni kaNdEn .
thigazhum aruKKan aNi niramum kaNdEn..
seRukkiLarum ponnAzhi kaNdEn
en Azhi vaNNan pAl inRu”
meaning, “I had the darshan the divine consort of the Lord – Maha Lakshmi I had the darshan of the divine body of the Lord , the beautiful complexion of the Lord and the auspicious discus (chakra) verily the remover of obstacles that prevent us reaching the Lord, and the beautiful white, divine conch in the hands of the Lord”.
This becomes the first verse of ” Munraam Thiruvandhadhi (third poem of the type andhadi), which is a set of 100 verses too counted among the Naalayiram Divya Prabhandam . This uplifting divine experience bound them into a state of togetherness. They traveled across various parts of India spreading the divine message of the Lord for attaining HIS abode and remaining in that bliss through there divine pasurams (The three thiruvandhadhis).
The one hundredth verse in turn hooks up to the first verse forming a lovely garland of verses maintaining the eternal thread of continuity .
To all the Azhwars LORD was a living presence experienced in the totality of HIS being and manifestation in HIS myriad creation .
HE lived in them and they lived in HIM ..
Video Credits : Sri Sunder rajan Parthasarathy
Pics : Google images uploaded by several advanced devotees
Adiyen Ramanuja dasan